Move over, Bordeaux: There's a new wine country on the map
Wine Spectator magazine explores how Israel is shaping the winemaking industry.
Wine Spectator magazine's highlight of Israel in its most recent issue may come as a surprise to Bordeaux loyalists and Napa diehards, but to the folks who have been working and living in the country's majestic rolling hills and witnessing the bounty of its plentiful vineyards for years, it's just another day in paradise.
This small country (about the size of New Jersey) houses more than 300 boutique and commercial wineries and has been a center of wine production for several centuries, and its growth shows no signs of slowing. On the cover of its October issue, on newsstands now, Wine Spectator praises Israel for its ability to blend its old-world winemaking techniques with modern sensibilities and tastes.
“Wine is a product of place; we are making wine in a place where it has been made for 5,000 years, in an area where wine culture was created,” Lior Lacser, winemaker at Carmel Winery, told the magazine. “Israel is a great place to make wine.”
Among the more successful of Israel's wineries is Golan Heights, which spans 28 vineyards and cultivates 21 varieties of wine grapes using state-of-the-art technology and modern viticulture practices. Its expansive visitors center is highly regarded for its attention to detail with the winemaking process and in-depth workshops. Golan Heights is also on the cutting edge of propagation, working with a prestigious French organization to develop varieties of vines that are disease-resistant.
Farther south sits Jezreel Valley Winery, known as Israel's first "startup boutique winery." Jezreel has made a name for itself not only as a modern winemaker embracing state-of-the-art production practices, but also for its use of native grapes – such as the Israeli-created Argaman. The winery features a beautiful tasting room that was once an abandoned garage.
Indeed, Israel is undergoing a transformation in viticulture that's characterized by an old-meets-new philosophy. Wine Spectator noted the country's skill in reintroducing ancient grape varieties from the storied Galilee region in the north and Judean Hills near Jerusalem. And it's no coincidence that Jerusalem's Hebrew University recently introduced a degree program in winemaking.
“In the 1980s, we couldn’t even have a [restaurant] wine list of good Israeli wine and, today, you can find really fantastic wine lists of only Israeli wines," said Eli Ben-Zaken, winemaker at Domaine du Castel in the Judean Hills. "Things have changed completely.”
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